Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Measuring Success - Making Disciples

Metric #3: Building Churches vs. Making Disciples

Most of my "professional ministry" was spent learning about the process of building, or planting, churches. There is a lot that goes into launching a new congregation. It is often time-consuming and very expensive. Interestingly, for all our training on how to build churches, the Bible never orders us to build a single church. In fact, Jesus declares that He will build His own church! When we get into the church-building business, we usurp the Messiah's authority and things can get ugly very quickly. We are not meant to build a church, but simply BE the church (ekklesia - "called out ones") that He builds. Furthermore, it wouldn't hurt for us to read the multiple occasions in the Bible in which God explicitly says He will not reside in a house or temple made by human hands. We do people, especially children, a disservice sometimes when we teach that there is a certain way to speak and act in "the house of the Lord." Theologically speaking, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit! WE are the church. The Church is a WHO, not a WHAT. It is our identity as Christ-followers, not something separate from us.

So, if we are not meant to be driven to build or plant churches (which is language still used in the Simple Church, by the way), then do we have another mandate? Yes, we do! The Great Commission tells us that Jesus directs His disciples to "go and make disciples." Making disciples does not necessarily entail planting a church (although it can). Making disciples involves planting Jesus in the lives of others. Another way of looking at this is to think of planting the seeds of the gospel in the different situations that present themselves. Making disciples is usually much more relational and relevant than church planting endeavors, and it is often much messier and more raw, too. Making disciples usually depends much more on God's direction and intervention than church planting, which is sadly often reduced to human planning and man-made strategies.

The question before the simple church in considering this measure, is, "What is a
disciple?" We must wrestle with what it means to be a disciple, and how to reproduce our faith in those around us. One thing to keep in mind with this metric is that while a churchgoer can be a disciple, it should not be assumed that one automatically equates with the other.

What will changing the scorecard with this measure look like in your context?

What are the ramifications for children if the church shifts its focus in this area?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Measuring Success - Radical Generosity

Metric #2: Money In vs. Money Out  (Fundraising vs. Radical Generosity)
Most conventional churches cannot help but be preoccupied with the amount of money in the bank account. This doesn't mean that church leaders are corrupt or have bad intentions. It is just a matter of running a business. And church in America is very much a business! Bills must be paid, services are provided, staff members earn salaries, and many of the operations of the organized church deal with a religious version of "customer service." Since typical North American churches use 50-90% of their budget on internal costs to simply maintain the organization, they need a sustained system of bringing in revenue. For most churches, this system is the Old Testament practice of tithing. In many cases, members are instructed to give a tithe, or one-tenth, of their income to the local church. Some churches take pledges or hold campaigns to raise money. As 501c3, non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organizations, most churches are consumed with the task of raising and spending money. Quite frankly, as good businessmen and women, they have to be.

A simple church approach to finances differs sharply from the organized, institutional church. First of all, large amounts of funding for buildings, property, programs, and/or staff are not required. Since the expression of the church is in the ordinary places of life that we already frequent, there is no need to construct other places to worship or serve. Secondly, while the Old Testament practice of bringing a tithe to the storehouse is now obsolete because of what Jesus accomplished through the cross and Resurrection, the underlying principles related to caring for the orphans, widows, strangers, and poor still apply. In the New Testament, we never read of believers continuing to tithe, but we repeatedly read mandates to care for those less fortunate and defend the cause of the fatherless.
Our hope, then, lies in a commitment to radical generosity. The metric for effectiveness is not based on how much money we are raising or bringing in, but it is based on our willingness to sacrifice and give to others. Simple churches can discuss and agree upon how to carry out this commitment, individually and corporately. Without the overhead costs associated with conventional church structures, there should be more freedom and ability to give money toward direct acts of service. Money and time are best spent on blessing others.

What would changing the scorecard in regard to money look like in your situation?
How would a commitment to radical generosity instead of fundraising shape this generation’s understanding of church?


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Measuring Success - Sending Capacity

Metric #1 - Seating Capacity vs. Sending Capacity

Conventional church structures are largely measured with one question: How many people are coming to our stuff? In other words, seating capacity is a priority. The aim is to fill seats, or pews, and use that metric to determine effectiveness. If a church can say it is "drawing a crowd" and have the numbers to back it up, then it is viewed as successful. Over the last decade, I have been to more than enough conferences, retreats, and seminars to know this absolutely is the case. Church growth models and methods have become an industry unto themselves in recent years in our part of the world (as can be seen by some of the hyperlinks I've included within these posts). Making a congregation larger, by whatever means necessary, has become the prime directive of many church leaders. I have been personally entrenched in this mindset before.
To change the scorecard to what we believe is a much healthier metric, we attempt to measure our effectiveness by our sending capacity instead of our seating capacity. Now, rather than counting how many people are coming, the key indicator is how many people are GOING. The church is meant to be missional, on the move; a living, breathing organism. Therefore, the church is people - followers of Jesus - that are influencing the world in which they live. A critical shift, then, is to move from judging ourselves by how often we are taking people out of their natural contexts, such as work, home, school, the marketplace, etc. so that they can have "church" experiences; and move to judging ourselves by how effectively we are equipping one another to minister and serve IN their natural contexts, like at their job, in their marriage, on their campus, with their neighbor, and other arenas of life. Wouldn’t this be a more common sense, real life approach?
How can we consider the questions that need to be asked to keep an active, "going", missional practice at the forefront. While many conventional churches work to avoid what are called "growth barriers" (those obstacles to certain levels of congregation size), simple churches are most effective when they are working to overcome "impact barriers" (obstacles that interfere with missional living in various real-life contexts). We want to address what it is that is preventing us from making an impact in our community and in our ordinary, everyday lives.
It is also important to realize that bigger is not always better, and 'mega' is not always the ideal. The truth is that Jesus usually had much more intimate interactions with people. The early churches that we know of in the New Testament met in homes mostly. Clearly, there is a connection between 2 or 3 (or 12 or a household) and spiritual growth. In other words, my argument is that a group of 4-5 believers that are effectively serving in their world and living out their faith on mission is far more effective and biblical than a church of 400-500 attendees that are doing little more than showing up for services. In the words of Amy Grant's recent song, sometimes there are other things "better than a Hallelujah."

What would a new scorecard in this area look like in your context?
What would shifting from “seating capacity” to “sending capacity” as a priority mean in terms of how we disciple our children and youth?


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Measuring Success - Is it time to change the scorecard?

There is a basic premise at work in our American society that is worth considering when it comes even to our expression of the church. The principle is, what gets measured, gets done! We love keeping count of things. We feel it is important to track progress and performance. We follow the stats of athletes. We receive paychecks and job evaluations in the workplace. And, as other teachers could also attest, one of the favorite questions of students in our public schools is, "Is this for a grade?" We simply want to know what will be used to measure our success.

In the Western church, we have adopted this attitude fully. It becomes a matter of emphasis to measure attendance at worship services, meetings, and Sunday School classes. I have sat in my share of board meetings that almost exclusively look at budget details. Pastors are often judged by their denominational authorities using numbers - how many people professed faith, how many people were baptized, how many people attended Sunday morning services, how many programs were started, how many classes were held, how much money was raised, how many buildings were constructed, how much staff was hired, how many kids went to youth camp, how many children came to VBS, and on and on.  If we are not careful, we can easily get caught up in a numbers game that has little to do with the Kingdom of God.
Because this premise - what gets measured is what gets done - is at work, we must be careful and intentional about the metrics we are using. In the words of Reggie McNeal, we need to change the scorecard. The table below identifies some distinct ways we might measure success differently in the simple church. These new metrics end up becoming the practical expression of all the philosophies and principles that I often bring up. In other words, this is where the "rubber meets the road" so to speak. If you don't change how and what you measure, then all your theory about what should be church will remain only theory and be left expressionless and without any fruit to show.


Keep in mind the motive behind this blog is to create a church that is much greater for our children. Changing how and what we define and measure as success here and now will impact the next generation’s practice of Christianity.

Conventional model
Simple/organic approach
Seating Capacity
Sending Capacity
Money In (Funds Raised)
Money Out (Radical Generosity)
Building Churches
Making Disciples
Professions of Faith (Altar Calls, Invitations)
Publicizing What We Are Against
Promoting What We Are For
Ministry Done FOR Jesus
Ministry Done BY Jesus